Is Fighting For the Remote A Thing of The Past? Voice Control, The Future of TV

Voice command could be the future of changing the channel on your TV. While Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is leading the way with its voice control feature on their Xbox 360 consoles, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), LG, Samsung and Sharp are all rumored to be working on similar products for televisions. The first step may be smartphone-style remote controls with a voice activation feature while other companies plan to incorporate the technology directly onto their devices and cutting out remotes altogether.

With ever increasing TV capabilities has come an ever increasing array of remote controls with various functions. Many households have three or four remotes to operate their television and related technology. A simpler way to control media has never been more in demand. Bloomberg Businessweek quoted Jakob Nielson, co-founder of design consulting firm Nielson Norman Group, who said, “Anything would be better than what we have now. We can only go up from here.”

There is also speculation that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is working on revolutionizing the TV as well. Before his passing, Steve Jobs insinuated that he had made progress in developing a new way to interface with our TVs. “It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it,” Jobs told his biographer per Bloomberg Businessweek. The cryptic admission has many believing that an Apple TV could hit the market in 2013 with Siri-like voice recognition.

There are some obstacles that voice recognition technology will have to overcome. Manufacturers will have to find ways to make the devices affordable. There will also have to be industry agreement on which device will be the main component so all the devices are not reacting to a voice command at once. The technology will have to be so advanced that it could discern commands from routine conversation and audio coming from the television.

Chiefly, users need to be able to use a larger variety of voice commands. Xbox users are limited to a small number of phrases and it’s not unusual for Apple’s Siri to not understand certain commands. Mike Thomspon, senior vice president and general manager of voice recognition technology developer Nuance, estimates that by 2012, 5% of televisions will have the ability to controlled by voice commands.